Research: Long-form social video engagement is mostly driven by subtitles

Creativity, Marketing, Studies

Strategic use of trailers and subtitles – sometimes individually, sometimes combined, sometimes not at all – can significantly increase views, completion of and or engagement in long-form video content on social media, according to research presented at Cannes Lions 2016. Deployment of trailers increased view rates – by 6%, according to the study by social media buying technology specialist, Adaptly and leading digital media
company, Refinery29.

However, trailers decreased the likelihood that audiences would complete the video – by 53%. In contrast, use of subtitles increased both completion and engagement – apparently making the long-form videos used in the study more accessible as a user could engage with the content whether or not they had sound.

When it came to completion, serving the long-from video with subtitles was nearly 4 times as effective as serving the trailer along with the un-subtitled long-form video. The findings also show long-form video served with subtitles was nearly three times as effective as using the trailer plus long-form video with subtitles. Overall, the research found that the combination of not showing a trailer but using subtitles brought the best results.

Video is fast becoming the most successful content type on social media, Adaptly’s Tim Page, VP, Revenue, EMEA, explained. On Facebook alone, an estimated 8bn videos are viewed, daily. Meanwhile globally, Facebook users each watch on average nine videos a day – six of which are consumed via mobile.

Received wisdom has it that when people go online they want to snack on short-form content. But with growing evidence of an increased appetite for long-form content– especially on social media platforms – Adaptly and Refinery29 joined forces to understand how best to successfully promote content to drive consumption.

Tim Page

We set out to find out whether a couple of techniques used traditionally to promote movies and make them more accessible could have a positive impact on long-form video performance on Facebook

Tim Page,

VP, Revenue, EMEA, Adaptly


Melissa Goidel_Refinery29_Pic

An additional goal of the study was to test the efficacy of subtitles and their ability to boost consumption, not just among different language audiences or those with a disability, but in sound-off environments such as at work or on a train,

Melissa Goidel,

Refinery29’s Chief Revenue Officer

Ultimately, however, both companies wanted to prove whether using trailers and subtitles together delivered maximum impact on longform video views, completion and engagement.

The joint study began by identifying the 10% most active of Refinery29’s existing email subscribers. Adaptly then employed Facebook’s lookalike audience tool to expand the campaign audience to others resembling them – a total research base of 2m Facebook users.

This base was then randomly divided into four cohorts, each served different combinations of long-form content to their Facebook News Feed with, without, with both or without either trailers of subtitles. Facebook defines long-form content as any content lasting more than two minutes.

The findings highlight a number of important learningsfor content creators – brand owners especially – interested in deriving engagement through long-form content on social platforms moving forward, the companies claimed.

“First, know your KPIs – if views are all-important to you and your brand then trailers are a great way to go,” said Page. “But if completion is important then your trailers need to be more of a teaser – or you should consider not using a trailer at all.”

Goidel added: “At Refinery29 we’ve taken these findings to optimise the performance of our long-form video in the Facebook feed. While others have thought there were boundaries to the quality or length of content that users would consume on Facebook, we think the possibilities are endless.”

Adaptly provides media buying technology and bespoke services for brands and agencies looking to harness the uniqueness and potential of the social marketing landscape.

Refinery29 is the leading digital lifestyle media company for an independent-minded audience of over 25 million on the web and 175 million users across platforms. Through a variety of lifestyle stories, original video programming, and social, shareable content across all platforms, Refinery29 provides its audience with the inspiration and tools to discover and pursue a more independent, stylish, and informed life. Its diverse range of content includes scripted comedies and documentaries, and it provides a platform to female filmmakers.